1. What were your first impressions of Irma, at the opening of the novel? Did they change as the book progressed and you got to know her character?
2. Talk about what Mennonite life is like for Irma and her brothers and sisters, growing up under their father’s strict religious rule, in their isolated community. What is life like for Irma’s mother?
3. Late in the book, Irma allows herself to remember what really happened to her older sister Katie, and tells Aggie the horrible truth. Do you think Irma will be able to leave her feelings of guilt behind?
4. Wilson tells Irma that art has the power to save us. Irma’s father tells her that art is a lie. Discuss the role of art in the novel, and how it relates to life. Why does Aggie react so strongly to the Diego Rivera mural in the National Palace?
5. Diego gives Irma a blank journal so she can keep notes during the shoot, so she can sort out what’s going on and keep track of her questions, but she ends up using it for so much more. What does the notebook become for Irma?
6. Discuss Jorge and Irma’s relationship. Why did Jorge leave Irma? Do you think they were ever happy, living on the farm? Does Irma really love Jorge?
7. At the end of the novel, Irma returns home to visit her parents and brothers. What do you think their reaction will be? Do you think her father is capable of forgiveness?
8. In the words of Wilson, “Our dreams are a thin curtain between survival and extinction.” What does that mean to him, and for anyone? Discuss the importance of dreams in the novel, including Irma’s dreams of – or hopes for – the future.
9. What does meeting the film crew mean for Irma? Discuss Irma’s relationships with Marijke, Diego and Wilson, and why each of them is important to her.
10. Talk about the cab ride the girls take to the beach in Acapulco in between their flights, and the relationship they form with their driver, Gustavo.
11. How does meeting Noehmi and the other student protesters affect Aggie and Irma?
12. At the end of the book, Irma changes the words of the heading in her notebook from Diego’s “You have to be prepared to die” to “You have to be prepared to live.” And then plays around with it more, too. What does this shift in perspective mean for Irma? Could this idea apply to anyone who has lived through loss?
13. What does the future hold for Irma and her two sisters?